Talking to Aging Parents about Care Decisions

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It's time to make an advanced care plan.

As an adult child, it can be difficult to see parents age, and imagining them in poor health is even harder. While not necessarily an easy conversation, talking with your parents about their health care decisions now will help you better honor their wishes in the future.

Starting the Conversation

Depending on your relationship with your parents, this may or may not be a comfortable topic. But, as serious as it is, talking about your parents’ care decisions while they’re still healthy allows you to have an open and honest conversation about future goals, wishes and needs. End-of-life discussions are much more challenging to have in times of declining health or crisis.

Future care planning involves discussing a number of considerations, including health, legalities and finances. The Eldercare Locater offers a robust online resource for all of these areas, summarized below.

Health Considerations

Find out where your parents keep important medical papers, and ask about the following:

  • List of providers, including any specialists
  • List of medications taken, as well as dosage and cost
  • Pharmacy contact information
  • Medicare and/or Medicaid number and identification card
  • Insurance policies

Legal & Financial Considerations

Advance care planning involves recording your parents’ wishes in various legal and financial documents. As you begin to make legal considerations, work with your parents to create a plan to take the following actions:

  • Choose a durable power of attorney for property matters, who is fully informed on future plans and finances Discuss the option of a trust arrangement
  • Create a will (if already developed, keep a schedule to regularly update)
  • Select an agent under a health care power of attorney
  • Create a health care advance directive (if already developed, keep a schedule to regularly update)
    • Your parents’ primary care providers should have a copy of their health care advance directives on file

End-of-Life Considerations

At some point, your parents may no longer be able to take an active role in their health care decision-making. Asking about their individual end-of-life wishes, with questions surrounding what type of medical facilities they prefer, if they would want life-sustaining treatment, etc., will better prepare you.

Continuing the Conversation

After having the initial care decisions conversation with your parents, it’s important to revisit from time-to-time. The Eldercare Locater recommends the “5 D’s” to help determine when documents and materials might need to be updated:

  • Each new decade
  • Following the death of a loved one
  • Following a divorce.
  • Following any major diagnosis
  • Following any major decline in functioning

UnityPoint at Home provides resources and services to help make it possible to safely and comfortably stay at home for as long as possible. Learn more about how advanced care planning can give you and your family peace of mind.